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Just a simple threadbare gypsy soul, wandering from blessing to blessing on this earth.

August 17, 2012

Healing Water

All the world’s problems would be solved immediately if we just immersed everyone’s feet in water -- I am convinced.

Sure, this catalyst for betterment comes with a few serious ecological consequences, such as, where do we get enough plastic or pottery or glass for the requisite pedi-pots, and what to do with them when the foot soak is through? Can they be safely recycled? Where will the water come from? Does it have to be clean water?

Probably it ought, for what happens if Leader From Country A has sparkling clean purified water for her footies, whilst Leader From Country P has nasty-rotting-camel-carcass water? Methinks that Leader From Country P would instantly, upon removing and drying his feet, regret having signed all those peace treaties when luxuriating in the soothing sensations of foot bathing.

 Regardless, those peace treaties will have been signed, and I pragmatically suppose that is the desired end: sans war. Or at least, ending war.

Don’t feel too bad for Leader P, though. Remember that others, such as Leader C, probably made some decisions he wouldn’t have ordinarily made, either, like cancelling the trillions of dollars worth of Country A’s debt or recognizing Country N as a sovereign entity. (All right, I’m beginning to wax political in barely-veiled initials, now. Moving on.)

The point is, while I don’t by any means suggest compromising your beliefs, I do recommend making compromises in your actions. Even when it’s difficult.

Scratch that. Especially when it’s difficult.

An acquaintance of mine teaches her breathtakingly beautiful children: “When you’re not being kind, then you’re being selfish.” I don’t think anything has ever made me feel more selfish than the first time I heard this.

When Spouse and I fight, it is almost always because I am being selfish. Not selfish in the “buy me more stuff” sense, for most material possessions don’t matter much to me. I’m selfish in the “what I’m going through is more important than what you’re going through” kind of way. Which is certainly unkind. Also, it’s infinitely worse than wanting more stuff.

However, even my destructive life is testimony to the healing power of water. When I’m overly warm and beginning to grouchify, washing my hands with cool water usually sets me to rights.  When I start to feel self-hatred over my failures or shortcomings, and most commonly of late, the slip and slide of my visage into folds and pouches, a shower revives me.  And, when my husband brings a bowl and a towel and washes my feet to show his love and devotion for me, all my stubbornness drains away.

Just yesterday in fact, after an extremely serious argument with my spouse, I asked him to please stay with his friend for a few days so that we could decide, in one another’s absence, what best way to proceed.  I have no idea what this meant, for I can’t imagine continuing life him-free, but I was upset and unquestionably not the master of my anger. And I said this terrible thing, and it shook him to the core.

My mother, upon hearing of this independently from each of us, advised us both to practice walking in forgiveness, regardless of what had been done.   

Furious at this perceived lack of support (what did I think she’d say, ‘Good riddance’? The man in question is my soul mate for crying out loud!) I proceeded to completely ignore what she’d, said and began to run over the list of wrongs. This list acted like a speculum cranking open the hole in my heart, letting ever more garbage settle darkly inside of me, increasing my rage. I even, like a crazy person, replayed my side of the cold conversation (for which I take full responsibility) out loud, answering with snappier, more intelligent, more hurtful words.

Boy am I glad none of that trash rolled off my tongue during the real chat.

A storm picked up, the Saint Louis Special variety with sudden torrential rain and thunder so loud it rattled the windows. As I watched the fat drops splattering heavily against my kitchen window, the wound inside me just sort of closed up.  Maybe it was that old cliché that you see your emotions in the weather. Maybe I’m the one who made it rain. Or maybe God was just saying to me, “Stop being an idiot and come drink of me so you can wash your sin away.”

I spent most of the afternoon standing right there, obese, hot tears running down my swollen maggot face, slowly melting the ice cube encasing my rotten, stenchy heart.

I began to regret what I’d asked, because the knowledge of this dark chasm of complete separation between us made me feel lonelier than ever before, like half a person, like Dennis Quaid trapped inside Martin Short in Innerspace -- a very tiny, loving, and good person trapped inside a frigid beast who refused to listen to my logic.  

But what now? The damage was already done!  My outlook bleak, I started to think about how I hadn’t been kind because I had been selfish. I had been so selfish that I snatched up my husband’s security and faith in me and shattered it into a thousand pieces, then urinated all over it with my despicability.

My phone sounded the Foxhunt tone, interrupting my self-loathing and signaling a message from my husband.

“Knock knock,” it said.

I paused, unsure if I should respond, struggling against that last little clinging bit of stubbornness. “Who’s there?” I wrote.

“Someone who loves you,” came the instant reply.

Someone who loves me? Someone who loves me? Who could love me? After all I’d done and said I deserved to be abandoned for the pursuit of better things.

Someone who loves you. I read it again, and then again. Like the Grinch, my heart expanded to three times its original size, and then,

Knock knock.

This one was real, on my own front door, so soft and tenuous I wasn’t quite sure I had heard it. I pressed my eye to the peephole, squinting through the rain-blurred fishbowl lens, and saw my husband standing outside, shoulders drooping, staring down at his loafers. He had walked all the way home in the pouring rain, his anger and hurt washing away, walking in forgiveness, to ask me if he could please come in.

I opened the door wide and he stepped inside.

The author would like to hear about your encounters with healing and forgiveness, whether it was a struggle or fairly simple. Please tell your story below!

August 9, 2012

Things I Learned in Greece

1.     Everyone speaks English.
Coming to Greece gave entirely new meaning to that old phrase, “It’s Greek to me.” When you pick up a bottle that says “νερό” on the label, you get a little confused. Some of the letters look like they belong in your native alphabet, but those accents look French. Wait a minute... is that Korean? Hang on... how do I actually pronounce this? Is this really water? By all means, try to learn a few words in Greek. It’s polite, after all. But when in doubt, you can just ask, and that’s nice to know.

2.     The entire Greek sewer system cannot handle anything but bodily waste.
As it was explained to me, the system is archaic. It needs to be replaced, but repeated attempts have proved fruitless. Every time you dig in Greece, you unearth an ancient ruin that has to be reported to the government, turned into an archaeological site, and protected by wooden structures with sheet metal nailed over the top for a roof, but nobody will study it for months.  You can’t touch it. After all, it could be evidence proving the existence of Odysseus.

3.     Tourist maps are not to scale.
Following the map to Corycian Cave, shown in the hills a mere three inches above Delphi (a 4-inch town), took me six miles up through private farmland where the path disappeared, though a faded sign pointed up the next mountain and into the woods. I started to panic. Nobody would hear me scream (save the goats), or be able to find my discarded body. Immediately, I headed back down. Four hours of walking in the searing heat and nothing to show for it save my feet swollen like satiated leeches.

4.     Don’t expect to drive faster than 30 mph.
If you’re in the city, you’ll be stopping for lights, pedestrians, and a million stray animals. On the main roads, you’ll be stopping for buses, herds of goats, and a million stray animals. On the islands, you’ll either be crawling around other vehicles on cliff side single carriageways, making 175-degree switchbacks up and down the mountains, or trying not to hit the stray animals. If you suffer at all from motion sickness, bring your pressure point bands and medicinal capsules!

5.   Ruins are everywhere.
Literally. When you grow up hearing stories about ancient Athens and Sparta, Helen of Troy, and Odysseus, everything seems so removed from current life. When you're in Greece, however, you can't spit without hitting either an archaeological site or some uncovered ruins. In fact, about twelve of them are within a 20 minute walk from central Athens! Just remember to take your walking shoes, because as much as I love them, Crocs and Converse do NOT cut it. Yowch.

6.   Don’t drink the water on the islands.
Don’t run your toothbrush under a tap, order drinks with ice, or open your mouth in the shower. In my group of eleven people, seven of them are mass ingesting electrolyte replenishment tablets (some after bouts of liquid anal explosions). I am tender-tummied enough to have brought a 10-liter “amoeba bag” with chlorine tablets to kill the belly bugs. Not only is my bum squirt free, I have a ready supply of cold water sitting in my mini fridge. Nice.

7.     The food is cheap and sinfully delicious, so eat out!
Don’t waste your shekels on €3 “ham” sandwiches. They’re not what you’ve grown to expect in a sandwich, and besides, I have yet to see a pig in Greece. Go for the real Greek food: gyros, spanakopita, souvlaki, stuffed vine leaves, and seafood. It’s an island nation after all! What’s that, you say? Vegetarian? Then Greek salad is for you. Can’t stand seafood? Then order some battered zucchini chips and spaghetti. Italy is quite close and her influence is strong. Why don't I have a photo? I spent all my time eating!

8.     There are almost no dress codes or behavior rules.
If you want to walk to the beach in your bikini, go ahead. If you can hobble along the rocky coast in your platform heels, do it. Want to show up to a restaurant in your speedo? So be it. Just last night I saw a dozen people in cycling shorts and miner’s headlamps washing their picnic dishes in the sea and singing Lady Gaga songs to a guitar whilst passing bottles of Bacardi and Coca Cola Light.  Okay… that last part was us. Just don’t swim in swimming pools after sundown – there’s a national law against that. 

9.     Island time is not scheduled time, on time, or any other kind of time.
What is on your posted itinerary may or may not be the time at which people arrive for meetings, ferries dock at their final destinations, or breakfast is served. These are just guidelines for planning your day, and scheduled events will probably change times without much notice. Further, nothing will get done in the afternoon. It’s hot, and really dusty, and you just had a huge delicious meal, anyway. That’s when you get to siesta, wash the dust off your feet, go for a swim, and relax! Ahh, vacation…

10.   Get up early.
It's cool (relative to the usual daytime hours), there is generally a breeze off the ocean, the sunrises are gorgeous, and you feel like you have the entire world to yourself. Never in my life have I seen such a beautiful sun, haloed in a clearly outlined golden ring and reflecting eternally off the water. Yes, I had to get up before the cocks began to crow, and yes, I stepped into some unseen goat feces in the dark, but my solitary morning jogs were made absolutely worth it with a final stretch like this.

Thank you, new friends & fellow journeyers to into the unknown, for the wonderful time!